Greenbean has been taking notes this weekend at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference in San Antonio because he wants to be a better writer.
I’ve published four books, and each one makes me a better writer. I still have a lot to learn. The last two days have highlighted how much I have yet to learn. But before I touch on that, here are some hot takes from the ACFW:
The people who run this thing are wonderful, kind, hard working and inspiring. I really do appreciate how much they do to help all of us neurotic paranoids.
Being around people who are like me is wonderful. Seriously, writers are a different breed of human and we all get each other without explanation. People who see me all the time in the real world don’t realize just how much I work to ‘hide’ that weirdness.
The most unused public room at ACFW is the men’s room. It is not an exaggeration to say there are nine women to every man. If you’d like proof, here is a picture of last nights dinner table.
The keynote speaker this year is Frank Peretti — who many of you will recognize as the rockstar Christian author of This Present Darkness and The Oath. My favorite book of his is The Wounded Spirit. I’ve never seen him in person before and was very surprise by how much he reminded me of Doc Brown from Back To The Future. For reals. If he’d said “Great Scott” just once I’d would have lost it.
Peretti is speaking to us as the ‘wise old man’ and here is what he shared today.
Keep a long term perspective.
Always be honest.
Be a real man. (Greenbean’s note: he didn’t make application for women, but I assume he could find a “be an authentic person” motif here with a little work.)
Failure is better than regret.
Do not build your life around dreams and goals, because those will change.
He said a lot more, but this was the gist. I really appreciated it because he was right. So many of us have great big ambitions, but what it boils down to is faithfully answering the call of God in our lives to be people of faith. And most of us are not called to be rockstar writers or even signed and contracted authors. Most of us will simply continue to tell the stories which inhabit our soul whether anyone is reading them or not.
I’ve attended four workshops and two panel discussions. The workshops have been very helpful. Here is the ‘plot-skeleton’ I drew today in a session with super-duper successful writer Angela Hunt. In my hands, the plot skeleton looks like a plot-monster.
Last night there were panels. Those were less encouraging. The basic message I got from each one is that my kind of fiction is not what anyone is looking like. The hot topics now are World War I and Vietnam Era historical fiction, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, and suspense/romance. To a person, every time speculative fiction/fantasy/science fiction are mention the door is slammed. That doesn’t bode well for poor Pastor Butch Gregory or my WIP about St. Carl of Mars. I have two appointments tomorrow with literary agents, but my expectations are guarded. As Peretti said, I am trusting The Lord with a long perspective and will keep writing.
BONUS INFO: The hotel is on the Riverwalk and I had supper at the Hard Rock Cafe. If anyone is interested, their plant-based “Impossible Burger” was delicious. The fries were too salty and the Arnold Palmer I drank was not properly mixed but still refreshing.
I am wrong more often than I am right, but every now and again, I am actually right. I seem to average two to three right(ish) predictions every year. I wonder which one will be right for 2019?
10. The stock market hasn’t found bottom yet. It will fall below 20,000 at some point this year.
9. England will have a ‘no deal’ divorce from the EU, resulting in a major economic crisis that will ripple around the world and tilt an already nervous global market into recession.
8. Oil will climb to at or near $90 a barrel before July 4th.
7. There will be no impeachment of President Trump, but there will be legislation restricting his powers.
6. Amazon will buy either Wal-Mart, Fed-Ex, or Alibaba.
5. A major Protestant denomination in the United States will dissolve, or maybe file bankruptcy. They may call it a reorganization, but it will be a dissolution.
4. North Korea and South Korea will enter into a significant peace treaty bringing the two Korea’s closer together than expected. They will do so without Beijing or Washington, making both capitals nervous.
3. Russia will invade a weak nation. Mostly likely it will be a further attack on Ukraine but it could be against one of the Baltic states.
2. It is grotesque and troubling, and I hope I am wrong, but somehow Harvey Weinstein will avoid all legal consequences of his crimes. He will pay out sums in civil trials, but he will never be convicted of sexual assault.
And now, for some observations and pics. Per my usual, I have broken these down into categories.
I was expecting French people to be rude, given all I’d read and heard. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We found the French delightful, conversational, fun, jovial, and good-humored. The only rude people we encountered were tourists from other countries–and I’m taking to you rude American woman who cut in line with your two loud-mouth children at Notre Dame.
Also, the French are a well-put-together group of people. They dress well, carry themselves well, love uniforms, and are incredibly fit. The only overweight people we saw were . . . tourists.
But . . . the French smoke. A lot. We were unable to get away from the noxious fumes of cigarette smoke. It seemed specifically bad in restaurants. No one was smoking indoors, but it was summer and windows were open and sidewalk cafes and . . . fumes!
Most everyone spoke English. We never had a problem communicating.
My new favorite cheese is camembert. Love that stuff. They serve it after the meal to cleanse the palate. Yum.
Oh, and crepes. I had a honey crepe in front of the weird obelisk at Concorde. The guy who made it was funny and wore a little hat.
Duck confit. I had it twice. The ducks on the lake better watch out, because I might just have to try and make that at home.
Baguettes. Every. Meal.
The coffee was good, but they don’t give you a lot of it.
I ate the snails, but wasn’t specifically enamored with them. They tasted earthy to me, like some varieties of uncooked mushrooms.
Perhaps my favorite was the macarons. I especially liked the pistachio.
The Eiffel Tower is really tall. Four hundred feet taller than my beloved Space Needle and five hundred feet taller than the Washington Monument. Of all the things we saw, it was the hardest to navigate the lines, waiting, and the top. It was so crowded at the top that it wasn’t as enjoyable as you’d expect.
We did the Louvre in one day, and we saw all the floors and all the exhibits. All. The. Things. The big time exhibits were nice, like the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, but the Egyptian exhibit and the paintings on the top floor (where no one else was) were some of my favorites.
We visited Notre Dame, but my favorite was Sacra Coeur in Monmarte. I actually had a genuine spiritual experience there. It was nice, and unexpected.
We skipped Versailles.
It took a while, but we eventually conquered The Metro. I think I’m as much an expert on the Metro right now as a tourist from another country can be.
The Louvre is monumental, but the D’Orsay is more enjoyable because its size is manageable.
One of the highlights of our trip was watching the new Mission Impossible film, most of which was filmed in Paris, in Paris! That was way cool. The best part was the commercial before the movie started for a doctor who specialized in lice removal.
I thought Delta provided great service getting there and back. Charles De Gaulle Airport is easy to navigate.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Latin District and the night time boat ride on the Seine. Both were extremely pleasant.
We’d been told that going in August would be a drag because people would be gone and the shops would be closed. We didn’t experience that at all. Everything was open and the weather was perfect.
On the plane ride home I read a great book, Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, A Martyr In Mao’s China. I’ll probably blog about it tomorrow.
The French way of having supper late, like around nine at night agrees with me.
The picnic we had by the fountain under the Eiffel Tower will stay with me as one of the sweetest memories with my family.
On birthdays we tend to celebrate and share the things we love about the person having the birthday. So, how about it for our nation? There are so many things about The United States that I love dearly, it would be impossible to list them all. Here are some political, historical, cultural and a bunch of other things that came to mind.
I love that we have three co-equal branches of government.
I love that criticizing leadership, elected officials, and policies we disagree with is an act of patriotism. America was born in rebellion!
I love Election Nights. I’ll take Super Tuesday results over a Super Bowl any day.
I love the Bill of Rights and the fundamental freedoms–religion, speech, press, assembly, personal protection, and trial by jury.
I love that we can amend our Constitution to correct wrongs, like slavery.
I love all of those Lincoln/Kennedy comparisons.
I love that spot in Michigan where I can look south and be looking at Canada.
I love that the French helped us beat the Brits, and then we repaid the favor by kicking the Nazi’s out of France.
I love the ideals of our Founding Fathers–equality, opportunity, fairness under the law, and liberty.
I love that we chose English as our language, because English is so messed up and thus is more fun to play with.
I love that Texas history is pretty much American history.
I love the Southwest–desert, cactus, dry, and beautiful.
I love Puget Sound.
I love the sugar white beaches of Destin.
I love the unique characteristic of each region of the nation, that New Yorkers and Idahoans share the same love of country and national destiny, but not the same culture.
I love how we are an amalgamation of so many different peoples–Germans, French, Mexican, Irish, Iranian, Native American, Polynesian, and so many other rich heritages that add to this unique experience of being American.
I love the classic movies of Hollywood–Casablanca, Red River, North by Northwest, Bullitt, and Mars Attacks.
I love Hamburgers with mustard, onions, tomatoes and French fries doused in ketchup washed down with a cherry Coke.
I love American cars and blue jeans.
I love the American Flag. It has an intrinsic beauty beyond the sum of its parts.
I love baseball at the diamond on a hot day.
Speaking of baseball, I love that our national anthem is practically unsingable–because who wants an easy national anthem!
I tried to keep my list to twenty, but alas, in America I have the freedom to do what I want.
Is our nation a perfect nation? No. Not by a stretch. We have many problems that need addressing and are cause for alarm and calls to prayer, not the least of which is the evil of racism, mass violence by disturbed young white males, childhood hunger, our disastrous health care system, and the squabble over how we will handle the great influx of people from other countries who believe what we already know–that America is the greatest place in the world to be.